Author Archives: David Stephens

David Stephens

About David Stephens

David Stephens is editor of the Honest History website and co-editor of The Honest History Book (2017). He has contributed many articles to Honest History and Pearls and Irritations. He was previously an Australian public servant and a government relations consultant. He is editor of the Honest History website (honesthistory.net.au) and co-editor of The Honest History Book (2017). He was an Australian public servant for nearly twenty years, then a consultant.

DAVID STEPHENS. Anzac Day and History as What we Choose to Remember

The Covid-19 pandemic has been compared with the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-19. That many of us knew nothing about that disaster of a century ago shows that history is what we choose to remember.

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DAVID STEPHENS. What will be the Nelsonian Legacy at the Australian War Memorial?

When it was announced that Dr Brendan Nelson was finishing up as Director of the Australian War Memorial, the Chair of the Memorial Council, Kerry Stokes, said Dr Nelson’s ‘enduring legacy’ will be the Memorial’s $498 million expansion program. There … Continue reading

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DAVID STEPHENS. Beneath the tumult and the shouting: Anzac Day as a private experience.

Anzac should be mostly private. It should be about the quiet, within-family, remembrance of – and caring about – people who have suffered in war, those who have been killed and not come home, those who have come home injured … Continue reading

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DAVID STEPHENS -People against the War Memorial’s grandiose extensions project.

On 23 March, the Canberra Times carried a story about an open letter from 83 distinguished Australians opposing the plan to spend $498 million on extensions to the Australian War Memorial.  

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DAVID STEPHENS. This is why the $498m extensions to the Australian War Memorial should not go ahead

Saturday’s Nine (Fairfax) newspapers carried a story about 83 distinguished Australians signing a letter opposing the plan to expand the Australian War Memorial in Canberra at a cost of $498m. The letter says the extensions cannot be justified, they show … Continue reading

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DAVID STEPHENS. If the Australian War Memorial holds “the soul of the nation” why is the Memorial Council so full of brass?

The Director of the Australian War Memorial, Dr Brendan Nelson, often tells us that in the Memorial can be found ‘the soul of the nation’.   The Prime Minister said the same thing, just the other day.  Accepting for the … Continue reading

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DAVID STEPHENS. A grandiose commemorative project for Canberra raises lots of questions

There has been for some time an air of inevitability about the extensions to the Australian War Memorial, a project announced on Thursday by the Prime Minister and Memorial Director, Dr Brendan Nelson. Serious questions remain, however, about this grandiose … Continue reading

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DAVID STEPHENS. Did the War Memorial deliberately mislead the Parliament about the money it gets from arms companies – or is it just careless about accountability? (Honest History 26.10.2018)

The Senate Hansard for 25 July 2018 contained the Australian War Memorial’s answer to Question 166from the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (FADT) Committee (question asked by then Senator Rhiannon in Estimates). The answer included a table that purported to … Continue reading

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DAVID STEPHENS. The Australian War Memorial admits receiving $1,271,473 over three years in donations from military and defence firms.

During Budget Estimates hearings, then Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon (NSW) asked Dr Brendan Nelson, Director of the Australian War Memorial, how much the Memorial had received in donations from military and defence firms. The answer covered the years 2015-16, 2016-17, … Continue reading

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DAVID STEPHENS. Lest We Forget again: Anzac Day is an opportunity to confront our violent frontier past and its shadow today.

Yassmin Abdel-Magied, a young Somali-Australian Muslim woman, was driven out of Australia last year after she implied that the Anzac sacred cow might be ready to graze new territory. ‘Lest. We. Forget.’, she said, ‘(Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine …)’. I … Continue reading

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DAVID STEPHENS. Brendan Nelson’s bunker and with cap in hand: contrasts in funding our national cultural institutions

The Director of the Australian War Memorial, Dr Brendan Nelson, has been spruiking the Memorial’s plans for a massive expansion. He showed the ABC’s Andrew Greene around the Memorial, pointing out its need for more space, particularly to show big … Continue reading

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DAVID STEPHENS. Who’s Schlesinger now? Something that may have happened in the Nixon era could be relevant today.

It is said that, when President Richard Nixon, assailed by Watergate, drunk and psychotic, wandered the corridors of the White House in the dead of night, talking to portraits of his predecessors, members of his administration put measures in place … Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, World Affairs | 4 Comments

DAVID STEPHENS. Hidden in plain sight: Aboriginal massacre map should be no surprise

Lyndall Ryan’s work on mapping the massacres of Aboriginal Australians builds on earlier work which has been ignored or glossed over by settler Australians. Perhaps this time, finally, we can make the link between Indigenous dispossession and the position of … Continue reading

Posted in Indigenous affairs | 3 Comments

DAVID STEPHENS. Afghanistan infinitum or walking away? The possible cost of shared values

Where do Australia’s values come from and what are they? Ten years ago, Australia’s then Minister for Defence, Brendan Nelson, was convinced that our Australian values were forged on the battlefield:No group of Australians has given more, nor worked harder … Continue reading

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DAVID STEPHENS. How we commemorate our wars in other people’s countries.

  ‘We need to talk about how we commemorate our wars in other people’s countries – and our own’, Honest History, 18 August 2016 “How would we feel if 1,000 Japanese turned up in Darwin wanting to celebrate the bombing of … Continue reading

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DAVID STEPHENS. Is this the most sycophantic speech by an Australian prime minister? Julia Gillard’s address to the United States Congress, March 2011

‘All the way with LBJ’ has become the cliche that associates Conservative dependence on the US alliance.  But Julia Gillard’s address to the US Congress is hard to beat!  John Menadue.

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DAVID STEPHENS. A review of Douglas Newton’s five articles that take us behind the scenes in the Great War.

Douglas Newton confronts the really important questions about war David Stephens reviews five articles by Douglas Newton that take us ‘behind the scenes’ in the Great War

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DAVID STEPHENS. Honest History’s Alternative Guide to the Australian War Memorial

Questioning the received view: Honest History’s Alternative Guide to the Australian War Memorial Which word should we use to describe what happened on 25 April 1915: ‘landing’ or ‘invasion’? Why do we refer to dead soldiers as ‘the fallen’? Does … Continue reading

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David Stephens. How did Canberra get its memorial to Kemal Atatürk?

The Atatürk Memorial in Anzac Parade, Canberra, was unveiled on Anzac Day 1985. Over the signature ‘Kemal Atatürk’, the memorial bears an inscription which commences like this: Those heroes that shed their blood And lost their lives … You are … Continue reading

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David Stephens. Bill Shorten’s Royal Commission proposal.

Labor and the banks go way, way back Bill Shorten’s proposal to have a Royal Commission into the banking system is not just good politics. It also taps into a long Labor tradition: banking Royal Commissions – and banking policy … Continue reading

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David Stephens. Invading our smugness: thoughts on a diversity toolkit

Wednesday, 30 March, must have been a slow news day at the Daily Telegraph. It is difficult to find any other reasonable explanation for the fuss the Telegraph made about the ‘diversity toolkit’ it discovered on the website of the … Continue reading

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David Stephens. Malcolm Turnbull’s post-Anzac pitch to the Australian Defence Force

Tony Abbott admired soldiers. He liked to be around them, to talk about the fortunes of war (“shit happens,” as he memorably muttered to troops in Afghanistan). He quoted Samuel Johnson about how men despise themselves if they have never … Continue reading

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David Stephens. ‘There will be blood’: ministerial remarks on the responsibility of children.

There will be blood from the sword up to the belly of a horse, and the thigh of a human, and the hock of a camel. And there will be great fear and trembling upon the earth. And those who … Continue reading

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David Stephens. Why is Australia spending so much more on the Great War centenary than any other country?

Current Affairs The question at the head of this article has intrigued Honest History since we began our coalition and our website. This was in the floundering days of the Labor Government. When Abbott replaced Rudd II, the federal commitment … Continue reading

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David Stephens. Atatürk’s famous words of 1934 questioned

  Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives … You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they … Continue reading

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David Stephens. The magic Anzackery pudding

Norman Lindsay was busy during World War I. When he wasn’t doing propaganda posters of slavering Huns or sketching buxom young women he was writing a children’s book called The Magic Pudding: being the Adventures of Bunyip Bluegum and his friends … Continue reading

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David Stephens.  Anzackery in the time of Anzac

Anniversaries sharpen sensations and heighten moods. Christmas brings on good feelings, New Year provokes resolutions, siblings’ faults are set aside on their birthdays. Centenaries accentuate this quite normal process. The centenary of Anzac has brought on a welter of commemoration, … Continue reading

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David Stephens. Is this justifiable delicacy or insidious censorship?

The Battle of Bita Paka occurred in then German New Guinea on 11 September 1914. It saw the deaths of the first six Australians killed in the Great War, as well as the deaths of a German officer and 30 … Continue reading

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David Stephens. The children suffer.

Osbert Sitwell’s The Next War, published in 1918, depicts some plutocrats deciding what would be an appropriate war memorial. The senior plutocrat puts a suggestion which his colleagues eagerly take up. “What more fitting memorial for the fallen Than that … Continue reading

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David Stephens. Parochial commemoration of war.

Australians are not alone in the world in being parochial but we are very good at it, especially in the way we commemorate our men and women who die in war. The Australian War Memorial is missing many opportunities to … Continue reading

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